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 By Ben Pearce

After Madrid draw, Spurs face even more important contest vs. Liverpool

The FC panel see Spurs' draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu as a statement that they can compete in the Champions League.

Tuesday's 1-1 draw against Real Madrid underlined Tottenham's progress in Europe over the past year, given last season they failed to qualify from an easier group.

Now, as they prepare to host Liverpool on Sunday, they have a similar opportunity to pick up an improved result relative to last season and strengthen their bid for domestic success.

It will be no easy feat for Spurs to beat their 2016-17 Premier League points total of 86, especially when they won 17 of their 19 top-flight fixtures at White Hart Lane and are struggling to exert that same dominance at Wembley.

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However, this was one of the two home fixtures they did not win last season -- the North Londoners drew 1-1 with Liverpool last August. In fact, Mauricio Pochettino is yet to win any of his three home matches against Liverpool with Tottenham.

In finding ways to squeeze even more points out of this top-flight campaign, a victory over Jurgen Klopp's side would be valuable, especially as Spurs have lost at home to Chelsea after winning that contest last season -- and such an improvement would be reflected in the league table. Pochettino's team are currently one point worse off than at the same stage last term, after eight games, but a victory this weekend would leave them one point better off after nine matches.

It will then be a similar scenario the following weekend when Tottenham visit Manchester United -- a fixture they have lost in all three seasons under Pochettino.

Across the next two weekends, Spurs face tough challenges but have great potential for progress.

The problem is that while they are fighting for every extra point, leaders Manchester City have made obvious forward strides themselves and already lie five points ahead of Tottenham, with their next two league games against Burnley and West Bromwich Albion.

It may be that City prove to be too strong in the title race and that Spurs will have to settle for ensuring they get a third successive season in the Champions League -- no small achievement in itself, and a prize Liverpool will be very interested in, too.

Either way, while Tuesday's trip to Madrid will live long in the memory, Sunday's league match is arguably the bigger game this week.

Given Spurs' margin for error in their European group, their clash with Liverpool appears more important in terms of points and how significant the result will be to the rest of their season.

The tactical battle will be interesting because both Tottenham and their visitors have shown they are happiest when facing opponents who attack them.

Spurs have laboured at home against defensive Burnley, Swansea and Bournemouth outfits, but have been highly impressive on the road against teams who have felt more compelled to carry a threat of their own. Madrid fall into that category.

Similarly, Liverpool destroyed Arsenal 4-0 in August with a devastating counter-attacking approach, but have also been held to a draw at home against Burnley and were unable to break Man United down at Anfield last weekend.

Both Klopp and Jose Mourinho claimed the other was the negative manager after that match, but either way, there was an understandable nervousness about allowing the other team to use their potency on the break.

Tottenham should be high on confidence going into the game.

There could be a similar dynamic this weekend as Pochettino and Klopp attempt to find the right balance between ambition and security.

The absence of Sadio Mane is good news for Spurs, given the way he shredded their high defensive line and exposed Ben Davies in particular during Liverpool's 2-0 victory at Anfield in February.

However, the visitors still have the pace of Mohamed Salah as well as the talents of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum, and are coming off a 7-0 win at Maribor on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Klopp will be fully aware of what Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min can do when given space.

Sometimes, like on Merseyside on Saturday, the fear of such attacking threats means the two sides cancel each other out, too nervous of making the first mistake and overcommitting.

On the other hand, Liverpool are shaky at the back and have conceded 12 league goals so far, while Spurs have only shipped five and have the best defensive record outside the top two. Pochettino might feel an open game will suit his side, and back his rear guard to cope and react better than Klopp's.

Meanwhile, could Klopp's experience against Mourinho and the Portuguese's questioning of his ambition influence his tactics one week on? Will he be wary of overseeing another stalemate against a top-six rival who are already ahead of his side in the table, and look to be more aggressive? Will he feel Spurs are vulnerable at Wembley and that his side can emulate Chelsea's victory there?

We shall see, but if Spurs are serious about hanging on to Man City's coattails, they could do with more than a draw against Liverpool this time around.

Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.

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